Workplace Accidents And Deaths Rise In Cell-Phone Tower Industry

In 2008, OSHA called cell-phone tower climbing the most dangerous job in America. In terms of workplace accidents, there have already been 10 deaths and three serious injuries this year. An Alabama man was one of the few survivors who escaped death, but sustained serious injuries after a fall from a tower earlier this year.

There are approximately 10,000 workers in the communication tower field across the country and the deaths that occurred so far this year represent a ratio of one death per thousand workers, making it the deadliest occupation in the country. A total of 18 tower workers died from work-related accidents in 2006. The cell-phone carriers say that tower-climbing is not what their workers are trained to do, so they subcontract that work out to other companies. OSHA is investigating whether the pressure for subcontractors to meet deadlines and the significant financial incentives to do so may be contributing to the proportionately high number of job-related deaths and injuries.

Things looked better last year with only one death, but construction managers have said that a push by carriers to install new technology now has tower-climbing crews working around the clock and going weeks without taking a day off. The financial incentives to get the work done on time may be causing some of the subcontractors to push their workers and cut corners in the way the work is performed. A project manager said crews working 12 to 16 hour shifts may forget to clip on their safety lines or they may attach them improperly when they become tired moving around the towers.

The fact that workplace accidents at cell-phone towers have claimed the lives of four climbers in the United States in less than a three-week time span in August can be seen as a cause for concern. When an Alabama worker suffers a tragic loss of life on the job, the surviving family members typically have the right to claim death benefits. An insurance death benefit payment cannot, of course, compensate for the loss of a loved one, but it can help family members to obtain a sense of closure and to better deal with the financial difficulties that can result from a tragic death while on-the-job.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, A new spate of deaths in the wireless industry, Ryan Knutson, Aug. 21, 2013